Next year, 10 Squamish youth will head to Ottawa on a mission.
During spring break in March, they’ll join approximately 350 teenagers in Canada’s capital to brainstorm solutions for youth issues — everything from supporting young newcomers to Canada to bullying. It’s a Youth Centres Canada (YCC) initiative that fell dormant for two years because of lack of funding. Now back on the table, Squamish Youth Resource Centre coordinator Renee Theoret is gearing up for the big trip.
“It’s an opportunity for youth throughout Canada,” she said. “They are able to choose different topics of interest and then structure a letter [to officials].”
In 2011, the centre sent a group to the five-day Unite and Ignite Conference. The days started at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast before the teenagers broke into their theme groups to work on their chosen problem. The youth were also visited Parliament, which was an eye-opening experience, Theoret said.
“A lot of them thought it looked like a bunch of old guys screaming at each other,” she recalled.
The camp aims to motivate young people to volunteer and take action in their own communities. The Students Commission of Canada and YCC cover the airfare for participating youth, with the teenagers picking up the rest of the tab.
Theoret hopes some Squamish businesses or residents will sponsor a young person on the trip. For many, the experience is empowering, opening doors they thought were closed to them, she said.
In December, Squamish will be represented by three girls at a Toronto conference regarding elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women. For three days, the youth will take part in awareness workshops. It’s busy times for the youth centre, Theoret said.
“It’s education most of all,” she said.